I was randomly inspired to write this post because as 2020 has begun – I’ve gotten really serious about my business. I’d really like to grow Blondes & Bagels big time in 2020. And yes – I’m straight up calling my blog a business. Why?
Because it is one.
I feel like I’ve often been…I’m not sure the word. Awkward? Embarrassed? Unsure? The fact is that I’ve rarely called myself a business owner, entrepreneur, or even anything close – I think because I’ve always been nervous to put my stake in the ground that Blondes & Bagels actually is a business. Because if B&B is a business, that means it has to be making big cash. I was nervous to make any proclamations out loud because…what if I failed? What if I didn’t earn anything? If I continue to refer to my blog as “just a hobby” that means there’s less pressure.
But I think in 2020 – it’s time to stop setting limits on myself. My own wording, my own view of my own business – I really think that has been my only limitation. If I don’t believe I have a real business on my hands that can make money – why would anyone else think so either?
And let me be clear – you should never ever start a blog with the intention to earn a load of cash and make it rich. Blogging is seriously so much damn work and if you go into it “for the money” – you’ll burn out crazy fast.
But reality is – Blondes & Bagels does make money. I’m not swimming in cash (…yet), but B&B makes a solid chunk of change especially considering I’m currently only working on this business part time.
I wanted to write this post really for myself – I need to stop putting limits on myself and my work. But I also wanted to write this post as a bit of a transparency post for all of you – really pulling back the curtains and telling you how exactly it is I make money with Blondes & Bagels and how you have (and can continue) to support. I receive so many beautiful DMs on Instagram each week asking about how to make sure I “get credit” for things you buy because I’ve recommended them – so wanted to take the time to really lay out exactly how it is I make cash and how ya’ll can continue to be the amazing #BagelBabes you’ve been, supporting my work every step of the way.
“Sponcon” (sponsored content) is probably the form of content monetization you’re most familiar with. These posts are the #ad posts you see clogging up your Instagram feed. These are the blog posts that have big FTC disclaimers (“All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to X brand for sponsoring this post.”).
Essentially a “sponsored post” (either on social media or a blog) is when a brand pays a content creator to write about their product. Sponsorships can honestly have a whole range of requirements – some include specific products and/or verbiage for the content creator to use, some have really no guidelines at all. Sponsored posts are incredibly broad.
There are loads of pros and cons to taking on sponsored posts as a content creator. Sponsored posts can be great because you have a clear understanding of how much money is coming in (once that contract is signed!), but you also have to have faith you’ll be paid by the brand in a timely manner (which unfortunately rarely happens). Sponsored posts are often hated by audiences.
Let’s not lie to each other – you probably hate when I do sponsored posts. I don’t take it personally – you probably hate when anyone does a sponsored post. I often hate when people do them – but usually only when it looks like the content creator is “selling out.” She doesn’t really use that product. Ugh I saw a bunch of bloggers promoting the same product at the same time – it looks so fake and staged.
I feel you. Trust me – I do. A lot of bloggers make the biggest chunk of their income from sponsored posts because they pay the best and you can pitch pitch pitch all damn day to increase your odds of landing a contract.
Personally, for my business, I’d really like for sponsored posts to never equal more than 30% of my total income. I really don’t have any scientific rhyme or reason for choosing 30% – it’s just the number I’m comfortable at. I don’t personally want to rely on any one income stream – diversification is key in case brand budgets fall off the wagon or some other industry event occurs. This isn’t to say I’d reject sponsored posts if they totaled more than the 30% – it’s more just a balance I’d like to set for myself. I’d really like to not depend on brands to earn a living as a content creator.
I’m a BIG believer that sponsored content can be incredibly genuine. I 100% stand by every single sponsored post I’ve done in the past and will do in the future – I’m really picky with my partners.
If you follow a content creator you’d like to support – it seriously helps SO MUCH when you engage on their sponsored content. Unfortunately because “sponcon” has such a bad reputation (audiences hate it), that often means sponsored posts tank – fewer likes, shares, comments, reads, etc. Poor engagement means less likelihood the brand will want to work with said content creator again (less income for them in the future).
My big piece of advice is trust the person you follow. If you don’t trust them – don’t follow them. It’s that simple. Why on Earth would you continue to follow someone that you think is lying to you when they say they like a product? Gross. No one has time for that.
I personally promise that if I partner with a brand – I use their product, like their product, and genuinely think their product is good and worth your cash. If at any time a sponsorship seems staged or fake, PLEASE tell me – I’m so easily reachable via DM, email, etc. I embrace that feedback!
An “affiliate” is essentially a commission based relationship with a person, brand, or company. The content creator is given a unique link for a product that, when the link is either clicked or a sale is made from said link click (some affiliate programs are click based and others sale based), the content creator makes a small commission.
Just want to be clear here – it’s small. It’s really not as big as you think it is – but it adds up.
There are so many different affiliate programs out there, but the most well known and used for “my kind” of blogger (lifestyle, beauty, fashion) is RewardStyle. RewardStyle is a more exclusive affiliate network – not just anyone can join, you have to apply and be accepted into the network.
Straight up – my first application was rejected. LOLZ. Just really want to toss that little note in here in case you’re a smaller blogger that has been applying to RewardStyle and been rejected. Rejection happens! Just keep at it.
I’m able to log in to my RewardStyle dashboard and create my unique affiliate links for any products of brands that they partner with. Not every single brand under the sun works with RewardStyle. RewardStyle is a sale based commission program (meaning you have to actually buy an item from an affiliate link – not just click on it – for a content creator to get their commission) so brands who partner with them essentially give a certain percentage of the sale to RStyle and a certain percentage to the content creator. The percent commission varies widely from brand to brand (some brands have as high as 30% commission while others are very low at around 2%).
My first year in RewardStyle I made very little because I don’t think I understood the power of affiliate links. I really associated affiliate links with being a “pushy” blogger. Swipe up! Buy this! Oh my God you NEED this, head to my LikeToKnow.It for the product info!
Again – I really am spotting my self defeating thoughts and language here. Why is it that I associate making a commission off of a link for a product I use as “pushy” or “salesy”? Why do I feel almost…ashamed about it? It’s honestly stupid.
Reality is, I make most of my affiliate sale income off of older handbag review blog posts with affiliate links inside the post NOT “pushing” product on Instagram and with outfit posts. Essentially these handbag review blog posts are well ranked on Google, receive a fair amount of traffic, and when people click the links, my unique cookie is embedded into their browser for 30 days (so even if they don’t buy that exact handbag, if they shop with that retailer I linked in the next 30 days I still get “credit” for that sale).
I’m personally working really hard right now to increase the percent of my income that comes from affiliate sales. Affiliate link sales are passive income – meaning I write the post once or post my photo once, and the sales can happen in perpetuity. I’m still making affiliate sales income every month from blog posts I wrote over a year ago!
I haven’t quite figured out how to be comfortable “getting salesy” on Instagram – I’m so paranoid the people that follow me will find me pushy or annoying – but I think over time I’ll find my groove. I’m telling myself there has to be some balance between being overly salesy and actually earning a deserved commission on a product someone purchased because B&B recommended it.
Shop your fave content creators links! Here are the basics:
Want to support your fave content creator by shopping their links? Just click ’em! Affiliate links cost you no extra money – seriously. It costs the brand extra money because they’re paying the content creator for essentially being a referrer. Shopping a content creator’s affiliate links is probably the easiest, least expensive, and least time consuming way you can support – because it doesn’t cost you anything extra to do it!
Ever been watching a YouTube video only to have a brief interruption from an ad? That’s because the content creator’s channel is monetized – they make a small amount of ad revenue when you watch ads on their channel. Channel monetization hasn’t exactly been easy for a while now, but last year YouTube made the requirements to join their “partner program” even harder (especially for small content creators!). YouTube now requires content creators to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours within the last year to be considered for their partner program.
Monetizing my YouTube channel was my biggest business goal of 2019 – and because of all of you I hit it! I can now run ads on my channel.
I’m honestly a huge fan of this method of monetization. I personally feel that the short ads displayed mid video are much less “invasive” than fully sponsored posts. Basically the ads are like commercials, which we’re all used to when watching standard cable tv.
Watch your favorite content creators videos! The more views, the higher liklihood their channel can be admitted into the YouTube partner program and the more ad revenue.
Ad revenue on blogs is an incredibly similar concept to the YouTube ads, except the ads aren’t mid video, they’re static “display” ads embedded within blog posts. Again, the content creator makes their cash when people view these ads, and sometimes click through.
I really fought against blog ad revenue for a while – there was even a point where I told myself I’d never have display ads on B&B. I’m 100% converted, though – as you can likely tell by any ads you see while reading this post.
The straight up truth is – I think content creators deserve to monetize their helpful content. The bulk of my blog traffic comes from organic search, which means my content is being discovered because it is the answer to someone’s question that they’ve Googled. While the altruistic person in me would love to always give content away for free – it’s just not always sustainable.
That being said – I have yet to ever pass the price of my blog content on to you, the reader. I pass that cost to the advertisers. 🙂
Read more blogs! I know in the age of social media, we all love to consume our content quickly – but old school blogs have a ton of value and your readership really supports the content creators you love!
Bloggers and content creators may choose to consult for brands or freelance for a whole host of reasons – primarily because it either really interests them or they need the extra cash. Content creators and bloggers make great consultants – they know the ins and outs of a wide variety of topics from social media management, content creation, SEO, copywriting, video editing…the list literally goes on and on.
I absolutely love freelancing and consulting for brands and small businsesses. LOVE. I personally offer a variety of services and am nimble and flexible to whatever a client needs – I have a website I’m working on now with my fancy new married last name that highlights all the consulting services I offer.
You don’t even have to be a client of a freelancer or consultant to support them – you can share their services and recommend them! Got a friend or know a small business owner who could benefit from some social media consulting? Recommend a freelancer you follow and trust!
An additional way to make “passive” income as a content creator is to sell a product of some sort. You’ve seen this take shape in many forms, from Tati launching her own beauty line to smaller influencers launching physical books and e-books (shout out to Austen, who launched her own e-book and I’m weasling my way into getting her to write a contributing piece for B&B).
One of my bucket list goals is actually to write a book! I’ve really never said that out loud to anyone so hi hello we’re just getting really open and honest in this post. No idea what I want to write about – hence why I haven’t written it yet.
I also think I’ll launch a beauty product of some kind one day – but like, one thing at a time, ya know?
SHOP your favorite content creators OR SHARE their products! You seriously don’t have to spend your own money to support a content creator or small business – sharing and just being an advocate is just as supportive and helpful.
Honestly ya’ll – I know this post is insanely long, but I felt really inspired to write it. I so often set limits for myself on my own success and business and it’s such a self defeating habit.
I also think there needs to be way more transparency in the content creation industry than there is right now. Readers deserve transparency to understand how content creators they follow are monetizing so that you can choose how and if you’d like to support.
Personally, for me, I’ve got BIG goals for 2020. Some of these business goals are so big and looming they really do feel impossible for me – but I’m going to continue grinding towards them anyway. And I promise to always be transparent and take ya’ll along for the journey.
*Blondes & Bagels uses affiliate links. Please read the disclaimer for more info.